We are very close to hearing the sound of baseball’s hitting the leather with Spring Training on the horizon. No more notable additions appear to be coming for the Tigers, but that doesn’t mean the hype for baseball returning in Detroit isn’t real. It was an interesting off-season with subtle but solid additions. The most exciting move came recently when the Tigers announced that they had extended infielder Colt Keith.
(This is not the underrated signing I’m referring to in this article)
The Detroit Tigers signed top prospect Colt Keith to a six-year contract extension that runs through the 2029 season, followed by club options for the 2030, 2031, and 2032 seasons. Keith will make $28,642,500 over the first six years of the deal: $2.5M in 2024, $3.5M in 2025, $4M per season from 2026-27, and $5M per season from 2028-29. The deal also includes a $2M signing bonus, $10M club option for 2030 with a $2,642,500 buyout, $13M club option for 2031 with a $1M buyout, $15M club option for 2032 with a $2M buyout, and escalators for the club option salaries. If all options are escalated and exercised, the contract would be worth $82M over nine years. Scott Harris made a huge statement by extending Keith to such a lucrative contract. Now we know how Harris is going to operate this Tigers team. He wants these talented ballplayers to be here for a long time. So much so that he signed Keith, someone who’s never laid a bat on his shoulder in the major leagues, to one of the most expensive contracts Detroit has given out in years.
Another move that happened recently that I liked was trading infielder Nick Maton to the Baltimore Orioles. There’s no easy solution for the Tigers when it comes to figuring out who their primary third baseman will be this season. Maton was expected to fill that void when Detroit traded Gregory Soto and Kody Clemens for he, Matt Vierling, and Donny Sands. However, Maton’s time in Detroit was mostly a disaster. Maton fighting for that spot would only complicate things and I think moving on from him now is the right decision.
When the Tigers’ off-season is brought up, most people associate it with names like Kenta Maeda, Jack Flaherty, and Mark Canha. However, I think there is a signing Detroit made that’s flying under the radar and it might be the best move Scott Harris made in general this off-season.
Shelby Miller Could Be Detroit’s Best Move of the Off-season
Every baseball fan knows just how important a good bullpen is. For teams that are close to contending for a playoff berth, it can be what makes or breaks your season. That could be the case for the Tigers in 2024. I believe if the bullpen lives up to its potential the Tigers have a very good shot at finally taking back the top spot in the AL Central. They have good pieces with Alex Lange, Tyler Holton, and Will Vest coming back, as well as bringing in Andrew Chafin for his second stint with Detroit. The addition of RHP Shelby Miller could give the Tigers’ bullpen the strength they need to outlast their division rivals.
Miller, a 33-year-old veteran and a former All-Star as a starter, brings a lot of upside to Detroit’s bullpen as well as a nasty splitter. The addition of Miller wouldn’t be as big of a deal if the Tigers didn’t have Chris Fetter on their staff. Fetter is arguably the best pitching coach in baseball, and he’s done incredible things for veteran pitchers the Tigers have brought in since Fetter joined Detroit. Miller has obviously seen some great success in his career with him being a former all-star. There’s a good chance Fetter can help Miller return to being a pitcher of that caliber, and let’s not forget, that Fetter transitioned Michael Lorenzen into an all-star last season.
Miller was really efficient in 2023 with the Dodgers as it is. He appeared in 36 games and finished with a 1.71 ERA, 0.905 WHIP, and 3.68 FIP. Over those 36 games, he collected 42 strikeouts and 19 walks. The thought of him being even better with Fetter is exciting to think about. If he’s able to live up to his potential, the Tigers with great starting pitching depth and a solid bullpen can do some damage this season in their division.